They’re calling it the world’s first high-capacity “Renewable Energy Hub” … a system that will connect the US’ three major electricity grids so clean wind and solar energy can flow more easily to far-flung parts of the country with large power demands.
Making the Tres Amigas (“three friends” in Spanish) SuperStation possible will take more than money — at least $1.5 billion worth — and transmission and distribution technology smarts. It’ll also require lots of advanced networking and communications to coordinate all the complex interactions involving multiple power sources, markets and prices.
A lot of the innovations making the project possible didn’t even exist just a few short years ago, according to chief operating officer David Stidham. For example, the SuperStation will feature cutting-edge Voltage Source Converters, or VSCs, that can efficiently connect two or more asynchronous grids by converting alternating current (AC) power from one network into direct current (DC) power and then back into AC power that’s fed into another grid. And powerful software will help manage the massive amounts of data driving it all.
The project has now gotten a financial and technology boost with the addition of a new partner, Mitsui. The global trading, IT and industrial infrastructure services company has not only agreed to invest $12 million into Tres Amigas, but will bring along its expertise in smart-grid IT, renewable energy development and management, and carbon dioxide emissions mitigation strategies.
“Apart from the purely electrical engineering aspects of the project, the commercial operation of the SuperStation requires intensive use of information systems and technology, as well as management of large-scale infrastructure,” said Phillip Harris, president, CEO and chairman of Tres Amigas. “Mitsui’s worldwide experience in these areas will be invaluable.”
Construction of the first phase of Tres Amigas is scheduled to start this year, with early commercial operations expected to begin in 2015.